The Truth About The Royal Family's Crowns And Tiaras

The royal family occasionally does things that convince us they're just like the rest of us. For example, Queen Elizabeth will sometimes drive herself around with a corgi chilling in the back seat. Or Kate Middleton will be a proud Instagram parent, sharing an adorable video of her kids clapping in gratitude to all the doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff working around the clock right now.

But while the royals do casual things, we're not exactly fooled. All the corgis and personally driven cars in the world can't hide the fact that there are some amazing perks that come with being part of the royal family, like owning all of the dolphins in the U.K. (Yup, Queen Elizabeth really does own sea creatures.)

Another such hint of their glamorous lives comes from frequent sightings of the many crowns and tiaras worn by the Queen and her extended family. And like anything within the British monarchy, there are some intense rules regarding who can wear what and when.

Only some members of the royal family wear tiaras

There's a whole etiquette around tiaras, as Insider reported. Only married women can wear them or women who were born princesses. "Traditionally, tiaras are a sign of marriage. So typically they could be worn by a bride on her wedding day, or after she is married, she can wear one to any white tie event," Grant Harrold, director at the Royal School of Etiquette, told Insider. "Single ladies don't typically wear tiaras, unless they are born into the Royal Family as a princess."

For her wedding day, Kate Middleton wore the Cartier Halo Tiara, according to Vogue. Her sister-in-law, Meghan Markle, wore the Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau tiara, a 1932 tiara made in the Art Deco design, per Harper's Bazaar.

Tiaras traditionally symbolize a loss of innocence. According to a Town & Country interview with London jewelry expert Geoffrey Munn, "The tiara has its roots in classical antiquity and was seen as an emblem of the loss of innocence to the crowning of love." Hence the reason no one saw Middleton or Markle in a tiara until their wedding days. But that's not the only noteworthy detail about the fancy headpieces.

Tiaras can only be worn at certain times of the day

Even now, Kate Middleton — who's happily married to Prince William and the mother of the future king of England — can't walk out of Kensington Palace at 10 a.m. wearing a tiara. (Can't a woman live?!)

That's because there are specific times and events for tiaras. "Tradition dictates that tiaras are not worn before 6 p.m., though weddings are an exception. They are worn on formal white tie events and state occasions such as state banquets," royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told Insider. "The decision on whether to wear a tiara is linked to the dress code of a particular event and also to personal preference."

Interestingly, tiaras, unlike crowns, are not emblematic of "inherited rank," according to Town & Country. It's actually the grandiosity of the event, hence "white tie," that allows for the wearing of tiaras. In fact, invitations would commonly indicate the importance of the event by stipulating: "Tiaras will be worn."

Here's another fact: Royals were never allowed to wear tiaras at hotels, according to Town & Country. That's not the only restriction either. For modern women, hair products can be a hazard to the delicate jewelry: "Hairspray immediately deadens the color and fire of precious stones," London jewelry expert Geoffrey Munn told the magazine. Some stylists will use a piece of cardboard to shield the tiara before applying hairspray, but having a lot of hair certainly helps hold the object in place.

Crowns come with their own rules, too

So, what's the difference between a crown and a tiara? For starters, tiaras are only worn by women, while crowns are worn by both men and women, as Town & Country pointed out. While a tiara functions basically as glamorous jewelry, a crown symbolizes royalty. A crown — according to what expert Geoffrey Munn told Town & Country — "is not jewelry but regalia which has some emblematic function associated with sovereignty and nobility."

Another fun fact: A small crown is called a coronet. According to Insider, the queen wore coronets while her father, King George VI, was still king. Usually, the only time men wear coronets is at a coronation, except in very rare circumstances. For instance, the last time Prince Charles wore a coronet was at his investiture in 1969.

According to Historic Royal Palaces, this coronet is on display in the Jewel House at The Tower of London for the first time. In fact, many of the Crown Jewels are on display at the Tower under the security of armed guards. Other parts of the queen's collection are housed at The Royal Collection Trust — though this technically encompasses all of the royal palaces, residencies, and art galleries, so the collections aren't housed in just one place, but rather, spread all over the United Kingdom.

If you ever do get a chance to check out the royal family's jewels, now you'll know more of the backstory behind them.